fast answer Friday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got an employer who demands that you count every action you take, asking your new employer for a Mac instead of a PC, a very attractive boss, and more. Here we go…

1. Explaining how you’ve been spending your time while unemployed

I’ve been out of work since October 2011, so about 6 months or so. Since October, I’ve applied for about a million jobs, had numerous phone interviews, a few in-person interviews, got a new puppy, read a lot of books, worked in my garden, painted part of my apartment, and watched all the Law & Order that was available on Netflix. The last few places I’ve interviewed at have asked me what I’ve been doing since I was unemployed, and I don’t know what they want me to say, and I don’t know if the truth is going to help or hurt me, and so if I should be spinning my answer at all. Somehow I doubt they care about the last half of my list, but is the first half going to harm my chances, admitting that no one else wanted me either?

Yeah, they definitely don’t want to hear about your job search or the L&O. What they’re really hoping to hear is that you’ve been volunteering, consulting, learning a new skill, or something along those lines. In a pinch, you can go with “I’ve been really taking my time to find the right fit,” but ideally you’d also throw in your awesome pro bono work for a local charity or whatever.

2. Company makes us count every action we take

I work for an outsourcing company. I was placed at a law firm as a file clerk. When I got here, they had about 3 months of backed up filing. I’ve gotten them caught up, but the amount of paper this firm generates is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The outsourcing company has all the file clerks fill out something called “stat sheets” every week. This is the most assinine thing I’ve ever seen in 25 years of working. I’m supposed to count each and every piece of paper I file, count every single pleading I index, count every request that’s made, count every phone call, and to top it off……measure the stacks of filing with a … ruler.

Have you ever heard of such an asinine practice? Also, do you have any suggestions I may be able to pass along for an alternate way of “documenting” the volume of work done? It’s just so absurd, and a HUGE waste of time. I think with something like filing, the work speaks for itself; it’s as simple as either the stacks and stacks of filing are done or they aren’t.

I have heard of this practice, and yes, it’s asinine. It’s the mark of management that doesn’t know any better way of monitoring productivity. You may not be able to get through to them on this, but you could certainly try pointing out how much time is spent each week documenting work rather than doing work (see if there’s a way for you to quantify the time without turning that into a project in itself). Since you have such precise numbers showing how much you get done each week, you might be able to estimate fairly precisely how much more you could get done if you weren’t spending time counting it all.

3. When another candidate is in your interview

I recently applied for an internal transfer from department A to department B. The recruiter for this position is a good friend of mine, so I knew who the other candidates were. The list was narrowed down to about 10 candidates, including me and another internal employee (who worked in department B; this would be a promotion for him). I figured it was a done deal, since he’s already in that department, but decided to do my best in the interview regardless. The interview was last week. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room (it was a panel interview) and he was one of the interviewers! He was very nice, I didn’t say anything about it; the interview went well.

I just got the call that the job was offered to someone else. I’m bummed, but not overly so. But I’m curious: is it ethical to allow a fellow job candidate to be part of the interviewing process? Should I bring it to the attention of the recruiter? Or am I just focusing on this because I didn’t get the job, and should just drop it?

It’s unusual, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it unethical. If the guy is known to have integrity and be a straight shooter, rather than someone who would try to inappropriately influence the decision-making process, there could be legitimate reasons for having him participate. It is a little like putting Dick Cheney in charge of picking a vice president, only to have him turn around and pick himself, though. (That really happened, non-students of politics! And I mention this in an utterly non-political way.)

4. Turning down an interview (or job) that a friend helped arrange

How bad would it look if a friend forwarded your resume to HR, but you do not end up interviewing with them or accepting the offer if given one? A family friend said that they will forward my resume to HR, but cannot make any promises. My dilemma is I am currently in the process of interviewing with another company and if offer the job, I would accept. The company culture is more in line with what I am looking for. However, I also do not want to miss this great opportunity if I do not receive an offer from the company that I am currently interviewing with. My question is: Would it make them (a family member and her friend) look bad if I do not end up going through their hiring process? Let’s just say they (the friend’s company) do end up wanting to interview me. Should I let the friend know that I am currently interviewing with another company? I really do not want to seem ungrateful. And yes, I am well aware that I may not even get an interview with company B.

Employers usually assume that job candidates are looking at other positions as well, so this isn’t odd or unusual. If you get the other job and decide to accept it, just let your friend know that you really appreciate her help but you’ve just accepted another job. It’s not going to make her look bad; most job-seekers have many irons in the fire.

5. Explaining a past bonus structure to a new employer

My soon-to-be new employer has asked for my current pay slip, as they will be paying me the same salary. I’ve been getting the bonus for the last 2 years and have thus come to rely on it like it was part of my base salary. How do I ask my new employer if they can add the bonus to my salary?

You need to be straightforward and explain that while your salary was $X, you also regularly received an annual bonus of $Y and considered it part of your total compensation.

6. Asking new employer for a Mac instead of a PC

I’m starting a new job tomorrow. Is it appropriate to ask for a Mac over PC. I can use either but work better on a Mac. I am pretty sure they use PCs though, so I didn’t want to be out of line in requesting it. Also, I don’t know if I am asking too late since I start tomorrow. What do you think?

Readers in I.T. should correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that if they don’t already use Macs, asking to be given one will cause hassles with how they’re networked. (I.T. people, am I totally off-base?) Also, yes, the day before you start is generally late for these types of requests; if they’re on top of things, your computer is already set up and waiting for you.

P.S. I used to work for an all-Mac organization. It was awesome. Although it also dramatically narrowed the pool of qualified I.T. job candidates.

7. I work for an attractive boss

It’s really nice to work for a very attractive boss. It keeps me inspired, motivated and productive. That’s why he’s very pleased with my work. Thing is, I’m really tempted to do something about it already. What do I do? What do I do?

You do nothing, unless you and he are both prepared to lose the respect of your colleagues and your jobs. Actually, you could change jobs and then approach him, but you can’t do that while you’re working for him.

{ 172 comments… read them below }

  1. JT*

    AAM is generally right about Mac + PC in the same environment, but over the last few years the challenges are less technically difficult. But there are managerial challenges always – the IT staff simply has more diversity to keep track of and more issues to pay attention to. That has a cost.

    If the OP’s job is very distinct – perhaps she’s the only person doing video editing in the company – then I think an argument could be made that he should have a different machine, since she’ll be using different software already. Or if some users of the company’s products or outreach will have Macs, then it’s good to have a few around for testing (such as for a design firm creating designing websites that will be viewed on various computers).

    But if she’s doing work that others are also doing, just being a bit better on a Mac is not a good reason to ask for it.

    She should get better on a PC. Or, once she’s there for awhile, if it’s really true that the Mac has strong advantages that others would benefit from, bring it up with IT for future consideration.

    Regarding #2 – that all sounds nutty, but I’ll mention that describing amounts of files in terms of length is not strange – it’s a quick way to estimate amounts and is commonly done in archival settings with large collections of paper files. But usually it’s done in feet – “10 linear feet of filing.”

    1. Tammy*

      All very good points about the Mac vs PC issue. It really depends on the company and the position. My company uses primarily PCs. The majority of our software & software licenses are for Windows and the computers we purchase are typically less expensive. We are a small business, so that cost difference needs to be very well justified! Often new hires are getting the older computers, while senior employees receive a newer purchase. We do have an employee who uses a Mac, but it’s due to his job, not his preference. The networking is less of an issue these days, although there are some limitations when he’s working inside of our Windows domain.

      1. Anonymous*

        Often new hires are getting the older computers, while senior employees receive a newer purchase

        It’s impossible to say without more details, but that has a smell of dysfunctionality to it.

        1. Anonymous*

          Meh. My small office works the same way. Many things are distributed based on seniority (length of time with the company)

        2. Tammy*

          That’s true, the details have a lot to do with it. A new tech hire would likely need a more robust computer system, for example. Employees who have been around longer tend to be doing more analytical work as well, in our particular case. But, generally speaking, if a company is bringing on someone who is only using a computer for email & word processing, and they have a (very!) limited budget, why would it be dysfunctional to spend those resources on an employee who has proven their loyalty over one who may not even work out?

          1. Anonymous*

            If all that anyone is using a computer for is just “email & word processing” then they can all have bottom of the range systems and be done with it. The end of the spectrum I was thinking about was when the boss gets the dual Xeon, whereas the new engineer gets the Sparc 5.

            1. Tammy*

              Ah, I see what you mean. Yeah, outside of the few jobs that require certain specs, it’s more like the baseline Dell from last year vs the one from 2 years ago!

    2. Anonymous*

      I’ll mention that describing amounts of files in terms of length is not strange – it’s a quick way to estimate amounts and is commonly done in archival settings with large collections of paper files. But usually it’s done in feet – “10 linear feet of filing.”

      It’s when the unit changes to ‘cubic mile’ that you start to worry ;-)

    3. Ariancita*

      I’m the lone Mac user in a team of Windows users. Networking isn’t an issue these days nor is software compatibility as I run both Windows and OS X on my Mac. Cost-wise, it has saved my team money as their PCs keep breaking down, while my Mac has lasted years with no slow down, no hard drive failures, no viruses, etc. IT can be an issue because if they’re still under warranty, they need to be serviced by a certified Mac professional (although you can become easily certified yourself if you’re tech savvy), but Macs generally need less attention anyway. But the reason why I got a Mac upon request is because 1. no one else thought to ask for one and 2. I was able to justify it because everyone on my team bypasses our IT (and its long wait times) and asks me to fix their computers. Therefore, I was able to justify the Mac, pointing to their already problematic new laptops that I was continually being asked to fix and comparing them to my 5 year old Mac laptop I had brought in from home and that was in perfect running order. (Also, it’s sort of hard to turn down the request of the only person on the team who is tech savvy enough to fix your computer when you’re desperate and approaching a deadline.) So while I agree that OP is late in asking, I think in general, if you can explain why it’s actually in the company’s best interest to get you a Mac (having an inept IT department helps), then it can’t hurt to ask. But just saying you prefer it, you are more comfortable with the OS, that it’s prettier (it is!), etc. is not good enough and may make you seem high maintenance on your first day.

  2. Anonymous*

    Number 4 was very encouraging for me… A “friend” of my mother told her that he would forward my resume to some people he’s worked with. She had my resume but not a full grasp of exactly what I do (not to mention the job was 9 hours away). My resume was clear, but the “cover letter” she sent to be forwarded with it was not. The resume was forwarded and I was contacted for an interview. I had some correspondence with HR and had to ASK what the position was.

    Turned out it was nothing that I wanted to do, especially not something I wanted to move 9 hours away for. I declined the interview and never heard back from HR. 5 minutes later I get an angry text from my mother because it had already gone from HR to the friend to my mother and I never got any sort of a reply from HR.

    Certainly cemented the fact that I didn’t want to work there, but I did feel bad for turning down an interview that someone else got for me.

  3. Liz in a Library*

    On Mac v. PC…

    I’m not an IT person, but I was involved in purchasing computers at an old position. Another thing to consider is the cost of procuring a Mac for you; it may be significantly higher to the company. We had a purchase plan with a single company at a significant discount because we were buying several hundred machines at a go. If your company has something similar, they may be really reluctant to pay extra for a single machine from another vendor.

    I would suggest looking around your first day and seeing if any of your co-workers have Macs. If it looks like it’s a pretty split office, talk to IT about what it would take for you to get one, and if they OK it, still be prepared to possibly wait until the next hardware upgrade. Although in places I’ve worked, there have often been extra machines kicking around in storage if you know who to ask.

    If no one else has a Mac, you’re probably out of luck unless you have a really good reason for needing it (i.e., your job involves significant design, video editing, etc…and even then, while I’m a Mac girl myself, you can totally still do that stuff on a well-built PC).

    Again, not IT–so feel free to correct if I’ve got the facts fuzzy. :)

  4. Henning Makholm*

    More Mac vs PC: Consider also that by asking for a specific tool that is different from what the company at large uses, the signal you’d be sending is “I’m uncomfortable with adapting to new tools and tasks, even something as trivial as the OS version my work computer runs”. That does not sound like a good way to earn respect and confidence in your professional abilities as a new employee.

    1. Anonymous*

      Indeed – one should stick to the serious issues, such as being forced to use vi over emacs.

  5. Kerry*

    Is it usual for a new employer to ask for previous payslips? That strikes me as a bit odd, but maybe it’s just something I haven’t come across before.

    1. Piper*

      This strikes me as an employer wielding power when they shouldn’t be. Previous compensation should not be the deciding factor for new compensation.

      1. Josh S*

        I was going to make a similar comment. While I’m glad the OP on #5 got a job that is going to match salary, I’m a bit surprised s/he didn’t seek to negotiate salary based on the value she is bringing to the new company, rather than based on “what I made before”.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While I totally agree that your salary history is none of an employer’s business, the reality is that plenty do require it, and will even ask for your most recent W2 to confirm it once they make you an offer. It’s BS.

      1. KayDay*

        I’m totally with you that the employer should not be asking about salary history in the first place, but at the same time, I think if you provide a piece of information, it’s reasonable that they would want verify it. (people do lie on job application/resumes, unfortunately.) As much as previous salary should not matter, honesty and integrity always matter.

      2. Editor*

        Please correct me if I am wrong, but my W-2 doesn’t appear to show my whole salary. Using it to confirm compensation seems flawed.

        The final pay stub for last year lists my gross, and it’s higher than the number in box 1 of the W-2. My W-2 appears to exclude money sent to my 401(k) and maybe other funds, such as whatever health savings plan is part of the benefits options.

        Also, my husband was once offered a job “for the same rate” he had been getting at a business that tanked. What he didn’t clarify and negotiate was that benefits were included in the previous job. At the new job, essentially he took a pay cut when the cost of health insurance and so on was calculated.

        1. $.02*

          CPA here, the difference between line 3 and 1 on W-2 is the amount that was not taxed (pretax retirement contribution) — in short all the amount you were paid is on W-2

      3. ARS*

        I just accepted a contract position where they did ask for my salary history in a questionnaire. I didn’t have to give any documentation. However, when I negotiated my pay, the main reason they didn’t give me what I asked (although they did come up) was my pay history. Let’s talk about my experience I do or do not bring to the position, which has nothing at all to do with what my last employer was willing to pay.

    3. Anonymous*

      It only makes sense if the new job would normally pay less, but the employer was willing to match since they really wanted you for the job.

  6. Ms Enthusiasm*

    RE: Question 3 – Since that other candidate already works in that department and knows the day-to-day activities then I can understand why he was on the panel. He could help determine if the other candidates they interviewed had what it takes to do the work. But I agree with AAM that he shouldn’t be there unless he is known to have integrity and can make an impartial decision that wouldn’t try to influence the hiring manager in his favor. But I also kind of think that just by helping with the hiring process he might have an advantage since maybe now the hiring manager sees a new (perhaps better) side of him. Maybe this is an activity that proves he is ready for the promotion?

  7. akaCat*

    Introducing a Mac to an all-PC shop wouldn’t necessarily cause any problems networking. But there are a number of other potential issues. Just a few of those are:

    * Do Mac versions of all the software needed exist?
    * If so, do the company’s current software licenses cover both PC and Mac versions?
    * Is there anyone in the IT department who can provide user support for a Mac at the same level they currently provide for PCs?

    If there aren’t already any company Macs in use, it’s not terribly likely that the company will provide one for the letter writer. She’s likely to have more luck asking the IT department if she can provide her own Mac or Macbook and connect it to the company network.

    1. Anonymous*

      Even if there are Mac versions, with supposed compatibility, in my experience complex documents do not transfer well across versions of Office: They don’t have fonts in common, they don’t have the same colour palette. I’ve never seen so many Visual Basic errors as I did the day I opened a template with multiple custom toolbars with Mac Word, and the trauma of porting Powerpoints from Mac to Windows drove me to teach myself LaTeX. Never mind the fact that Mac does not have a current version of IE and way too much enterprise software is built with an IE-specific interface.

      So if you’re in a PC-dominant shop, unless you’re at the end of all workflows (publication), using highly specialized software, or so high in the organization that other people just have to accommodate you, then using a Windows machine will ultimately be less painful. (And this from someone who has been a stalwart acolyte of the Cult of Mac since 1985.)

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve never seen so many Visual Basic errors as I did the day I opened a template with multiple custom toolbars with Mac Word, and the trauma of porting Powerpoints from Mac to Windows drove me to teach myself LaTeX

        grinsI remember learning LaTeX because the alternative was learning Word and being stuck with a 5 MB quota for a project write up. Shortly thereafter, I realised that the LaTeX documents could go into revision control, and never looked back.

    2. Karthik*

      “* If so, do the company’s current software licenses cover both PC and Mac versions?”

      This is probably the big one. It’s probably easiest to get your request fulfilled at a tiny company (where they buy individual licenses) or a huge one (where there are probably enough mac users around to justify buying a network license for many of the software packages). For medium companies, they’re too large to buy single seat licenses and too small to buy multiple OS’s of common software.

      If they haven’t already bought you a computer, then you might as well ask.

    3. Ariancita*

      I’ve mentioned this earlier, but some of these aren’t issues. 1. You can run Windows on Mac for software that only runs on Windows (in my work, there are a couple of programs where that is the case). With a Mac, you basically have two machines. Also, with the latest MS Word Suite, the incompatibilities are very minimum between Mac and PC. I do think the OP needs to prove that she’s a power user and knows where those incompatibilities will become evident and how to adjust for them (we do a tremendous amount of Excel, PP, and Word and go back and forth quite a bit and it hasn’t been an issue).

      Also, fixing a Mac: Yes, if all computer fixing needs to be done through the IT department, then Macs do need to be serviced by a certified Mac specialist lest you lose your warranty, however, Macs rarely need to be serviced. I worked in IT for a University; almost all computer servicing was done on PCs. Macs cost more, but last longer, generally. Most software licenses used in offices cover both Mac and Windows versions.

      So a lot of this stuff is easy to suss out, but as another poster said, do you really want to start out in a new job demanding something special and different than what everyone else is using? I think that’s the biggest problem.

  8. The Right Side*

    In W’s book, he had to ask Cheney more than once to take on the office of VP… he initially declined.

      1. Charles*

        Maybe it is spin and maybe it isn’t. But, AAM, could I ask you for a BIG favor? Please?

        One of the greatest things about your blog (aside from you, your advice, and your writing) is that you seen to have kept this blog “politics free.” Can you keep it that way? Please?

        How about “pretty please with a cherry on top?”

        1. Britta*

          I think she’s done a pretty good job of keeping politics out of this forum so far. I wouldn’t worry about it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I really didn’t mean the Cheney remark in a political way. I just think that’s a hilarious story about him (and I stand by it being well-documented, even though people close to him have obviously been motivated to try to counteract it, but we don’t need to debate that here). I just think it’s funny. My friend once had a real estate agent (who was also his friend) who ended up talking him into buying a huge mansion he couldn’t afford, and the real estate agent friend suggested he live there too as his roommate. I always liked to think of it as being Cheney-ed.

          1. Lindsay H.*

            I didn’t take it as a spark of political debate. It is a proven historical/political fact (however it was initiated that Cheney should throw his hat into the ring) that happened.

  9. The Right Side*

    #6 – a bit presumptuous and as a previous poster mentioned, sounds like you can’t adapt. Considering the majority offices run PCs – sorry it is cheaper – you need to learn how to use it sufficiently. I hear “not a team player” in a future review if you go in demanding special treatment on day 1.

  10. Karin*

    Question for others: if a workplace doesn’t allow/support macs, would it be totally inappropriate to ask if you can use a personal mac laptop (being perfectly willing to take no for an answer, of course)? I, too, find I work much better on a Mac, partly because the terminal uses the same commands I use on our web servers. I would think there would have to be some assurances all work would be saved/backed up to a network drive or something.

    Just theoretical for me- I have a Mac at work, which is what prompted me switch to one at home.

    1. JT*

      There is a trend in corporate computing of allowing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) that’s arisen largely because of pressure from mobile computing, with staff accessing company information while outside the office from laptops and smartphones. That need has forced IT staff to address the security challenges of allowing outside devices to interact with the network.

      So from that perspective, using your own computer for work is less problematic nowadays than it used to be, and will become easier and easier. That said, insofar as BYOD is about mobile work and telecommuting, it will seem strange to regularly use an external machine in the office, and to an extent demonstrates an unwillingness to get better at the standard machine used in the office.

      I think the OP should look at being forced to us an alternative operating system as an opportunity to get better at it.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve never quite understood why workers are so eager to fund their employer’s hardware budget out of their own pockets.

        1. Charles*

          ” . . . eager to fund their employer’s hardware budget . . .”

          OMG, yes! I have lost out on a couple of assignments laetely, and I am sure it is because the organizations wanted me to use my own equipment!

          Sorry, but they already aren’t paying anything beyond an hourly rate; no vacation, no holiday, no benenfits, and now they want me to supply computer hardware?!

          1. Kimberlee*

            Well, if you’re being paid as a contractor rather than an employee (which I’m not saying you are, it just sorta sounds like it), using your own equipment is a fairly significant piece of the “should this person be a W-2 employee or a W-9 contractor?” puzzle. So if there are other aspects of your work that suggest you should be paid as an employee, organizations might decide that someone unwilling to use their own hardware is too much of a liability.

    2. Student*

      Bringing your own device is technically feasible.

      The downside to bringing your own computing devices is that it is a security and support nightmare.

      If you are doing something that requires some level of security, then it’s a bit irresponsible to try to do this, even if your company supports it. For example, if your work involved dealing with sensitive customer data, SSN #s, or corporate secrets, then it’s a terrible idea to leave the security issues to a normal businessperson without the IT experience to adequately protect it.

      The ultimate business question is, will your productivity gains on your personal laptop outweigh the lost time to the IT personnel? Will it outweigh the interruption to your business if your personal computer dies, since IT can’t just hand you a new personal laptop or force you to keep backups? Keep in mind that, if it’s a company-wide policy to do this, then your IT workers now become not only a business IT department but also the Best Buy Geek Squad, because if your personal laptop is broken for completely non-business reasons the company IT department still needs to get it working so that you can use it at work. Sometimes, asking the IT department to also be everyone’s personal computer support works out – I’m of the opinion that most of the time it doesn’t, and it ends up being an unintended employee “perk”.

      1. fposte*

        It’s going to depend on the workplace, too. I have hybrid ownership–I own the hardware but I have some university-licensed materials on it to use for work–and that’s not at all uncommon around here and, I suspect, in academics generally.

        1. Ariancita*

          Correct about academic environments. Also, about security, it’s not difficult for IT to turn a personal computer into a managed one. Before I was provided a company owned computer, I used mine and because I work with HIPAA information, I had to have it managed and also encrypted. It’s as easy to do it on someone’s personal computer as it is to do it on one that has been purchased by the company. The real question is, why would you want to do that to your own computer. Not only are you subsidizing your company’s equipment costs, you’re making your computer personal user unfriendly.

    3. Karthik*

      Don’t bring your own device. If you have company secret data on your machine and you resign, move on to another job, etc. — you’ve given permission to the company to go through your computer and remove their files.

      Even if stuff is on a network drive, there’s no guarantee that temporary files, downloads, and the like aren’t on your machine. Any IT person will want to scrub your machine before you leabe on your last day.

      The only real solution would be if you bought a mac *just* for work use, and didn’t keep any personal data on it. At that point you might as well let your company buy you a machine.

      1. Karin*

        I hadn’t thought about the “having to let the company look through my materials” angle. I figured I would just be keeping work stuff in a separate folder- but that’s a pretty compelling reason not to ask for that arrangement. I wouldn’t be buying a separate computer for work in this scenario- just bringing in the laptop I already own.

        At the same time, I’ve never had to work with sensitive data like financial accounts or SS#’s.

        Glad it’s not an issue at this point, anyway. I would really dislike switching back to windows- most of my most used software (aside from the web browser) is mac only!

  11. The Right Side*

    #1 – as usually recommended, I would remind them that you have viewed unemployment as a job in and of itself, working more than 40 hours a week to secure a new job. I’ve heard of folks go into details on what they’ve been doing on their job hunt, too.

    However, when I took off from my last job for the birth of my 2nd daughter, I used it as an opportunity to finish grad school, too. (About 1 1/2 yrs out of employment altogether) This resulted in a fantastic new job once I started the hunt again (just this past year in the middle of the bad economy) – and with my 2nd application, 1st interview. Hired on the spot – my first job as an executive… not too shabby :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually probably wouldn’t go in that direction — while it may be unfair, it’ll raise questions about why you’ve been looking for a job full-time for six months and haven’t found anything. It’s also an answer that won’t benefit you at all, whereas volunteering, building a new skill, etc. will.

      Slightly related posts:

      1. Anonymous*

        This is depressing. I think that one way to keep one’s spirits up during unemployment is to enjoy one’s free time. It sounds like the OP was productive around the hosue, cleared their head out, enjoyed pastimes they didn’t have time for when working. Now that’s unacceptable and we’re all supposed to spend our unemployment time coming up with other “work” to occupy us? Ugh.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, we’re only taking about an hour or two a week to have a better answer to this question, and indeed to be more marketable in a very tight job market. I think it’s worth it.

          1. ARM2008*

            Maybe it’s industry and interviewer specific, but in my interviews for IT and other professional jobs nobody cared about the professional volunteer work I do on the Board of a non-professional non-profit. Budgeting, formal project planning, event coordination, hiring, running meetings, creating and working with teams, records maintenance – even when I translate it for them they don’t get it. I can’t imagine they would care if I spent 2 hours a week volunteering at the Humane Society. Unless they are an animal lover – it’s worth trying for the connection!

            I think the most bang for your volunteering buck is to take on a project or responsibility that you can relate to your career. Small non-profits like mine don’t have a need for hourly volunteers, but if you are willing to take responsibility for a project and manage your own time I can set you up (anybody want to scour our online archives for information on the Awards given out over the last 30 years and update our web site with the info?). Consider approaching a small non-profit and offer to take on a project that either uses your skill set or expands it. If you do a good job you’ve just made connections that could network you into a “real” job.

        2. Student*

          Be realistic. Yes, you have the option of enjoying your free time. It’s not reasonable to expect that “enjoying your free time” is going to bring you any closer to getting a job, though. If you were employed at the moment, you wouldn’t expect that a prospective new employer would want to hear about your vacation trips as a reason to hire you.

          If you want to do something of interest to an employer in your unemployed time, you’ll need to find some volunteer activity you can do or spend some time training yourself on a new skill. Employed folk face the same rat race – no one wants to hire someone who hasn’t keep their skills up-to-date and shown a commitment to do unpleasant but beneficial tasks.

          1. Dr. Speakeasy*

            Yes – this reminds me of a college classmate who complained that it wasn’t fair that others in the class would get to put down various retail/food service jobs as some level of experience when looking for work while she never held a job because her parents paid for everything.

            The instructor politely requested she reconsider her definition of “fair.”

            1. Anonymous*

              I knew someone in college who said the exact same thing! It was directed at a few of us in particular – we were so lucky that our parents let us work!


            2. Anonymous*

              eh, I had a friend in high school whose parents forbid her from doing any paid work and really limited her non-academic activities (they were really strict in general). She went to an Ivy-league college, so I don’t think she was hurt too much, but still…

      2. Ashley*

        I am working with a friend on her resume for a job with my company. She has been unemployed for a while and she had “Stay at home Mom” listed for the unemployment period. I told her it was better to leave it blank and be prepared to answer for it when they ask. She said a recruiter friend of hers recently told her that any gaps over three months in your resume automatically make people think you were in jail?!? Have you ever heard of such a thing.

        1. Celia*

          I assume what the recruiter was trying to say is that interviewers will make you account for any gaps over 3 months on your resume. Which I have heard multiple places/had to answer to in the past. So it’s possible that the recruiter friend is confused, or misunderstood information they were given. I do feel ignoring all advice that friend has is probably a good idea, though, and you might want to steer clear of their agency altogether.

    2. Catherine*

      What I would actually say in this situation is, “While I’ve been job hunting, I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to catch up on some deferred maintenance on my home.” Obviously, they won’t care about the details unless you work in construction or home decorating, so don’t go into them–but it least it points out that you’ve been doing some work.

      Volunteering would be a better answer, but I do sympathize with what could be a difficult situation there. Unless you already have a relationship with an organization, it can be hard to get someone to take you on when you’re job searching. They don’t want to train you just to have you become unavailable a few weeks later when you find a job. (At least, this is true in the fields in which I’ve done volunteering.)

      Maybe there are some other ways you could be learning skills while you job search, though.

      1. Celia*

        Actually, while it’s not in the area that I am job hunting in (software project management), I have admin, fundraiser, and graphic design skills from when I was in a different career track, so I really have no good excuse for not finding volunteer work to do. I even have a large number of contacts in the non-profit area through friends. I did help out briefly before the holidays, but never went back, my bad. So I guess I should remedy that as soon as possible, in case other places start asking that question too. (So far, just the temp agency I registered with recently.)

      2. Piper*

        I agree. It’s not that easy to just up and volunteer or pick up consulting work. There has to be a market for both things that suit your skills and sometimes there just….isn’t. Sure, you can still volunteer in a soup kitchen or walking dogs, which is just fine, but not necessarily the skills building volunteer work employers expect from unemployed people.

        Also, about consulting…if you’re collecting unemployment, consulting can mess with that and sometimes you rely on that unemployment especially when you aren’t planning to go into the consulting business full-time (or even part-time). And also, taking classes costs money, something most unemployed people aren’t rolling in, so there’s that.

        As good as some of these things sound, sometimes when you’re unemployed you can only do so much.

        I was lucky when I was unemployed to find an organization who could utilize my skills and also to be able to continue with my grad school education (which I had already started prior to be unemployed). But not everyone has those opportunities and it’s sort of unfair to expect that.

        1. Anonymous*

          Sorry, but I have trouble believing that it’s difficult to find skills-based volunteering. Speaking as a volunteer coordinator, there is a huge need for skills-based volunteers (at least in my city and the cities I have connections in, this is a pretty hot topic!)

          A lot of organizations look for volunteers to help with computers, web design, admin work, you name it! Where I live there’s a great website that collects volunteer position postings, see if there’s one of these in your area or do cold calls to the volunteer coordinator at an organization you’re interested in, you don’t necessarily need a personal connection. Not everyone may need skills based volunteers, but I would be shocked if you couldn’t find more then one organization willing to take you on.

          1. Piper*

            Okay, well, that’s where you live, but not everyone lives in an area that’s filled to the brim with volunteer opportunities. I actually don’t. I was lucky to have found one. And it wasn’t even directly in my actual field; it was in a field I’m working on for my own business. So, I still didn’t actually find something in what I actually do for a day job. So yeah, location makes a difference. Especially when you don’t live in a city.

          2. RecentInterviewee*


            I’m truly delighted to know that you work as a volunteer coordinator and are able to use social media and websites as a platform to broaden awareness of volunteer opportunities in your city.

            At the moment, I am volunteering with two nonprofits; so I know that in metropolitan areas many opportunities exist. They can be easily found in cities and towns with many well-organized and well-known nonprofits– United Way, Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.

            However, I sincerely urge you to avoid making assumptions about the level of technical skill, staff size, and ability/willingness of people to give their time in more rural areas. Not everyone will be able to simply input a web address to find a chance to build their skills via volunteering with a worthy cause.

        2. Anonymous*

          I agree. While I think volunteering is a great idea, it’s a myth that any non-profit will fall head over heals to have anyone come in and volunteer. It takes a lot of work to train people (and even to delegate to them if the organization has never had volunteers in the past). I did volunteer at an animal shelter once that had a really great volunteer program, and even there it took about 6 weeks between the time you applied and the first day on the “job.”

  12. Anonymous*

    #7: Really? REALLY? This cannot be a serious question. Dating coworkers is ill-advised; dating your boss is a TERRIBLE idea. During college, I worked at a kiosk in the mall that shall remain nameless. There were four of us; my boss, me, my male coworker, and my female coworker who came on board WELL after I started. Everything was great and we all got along until the boss started dating my female coworker. Things were awkward, I got to hear more stories than I’d care to about their sex life, etc. Eventually, she stopped giving a crap about the job and not doing her work… and my male coworker and I had to pick up the slack, while the boss refused to discipline her because, well, she was his girlfriend. Even if he had done the right thing and disciplined her, the fact that they were dating at all gave the APPEARANCE of impropriety, because eventually corporate found out, and BOTH of them were terminated.

    In short, this is a VERY BAD IDEA.

    1. Josh S*

      Yeah, I’m inclined to think that this was a spammish question that got past AAM’s filters. Perhaps not, but I tend to believe it’s a bad joke.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is actually the only question I’ve ever published where I had doubts about its authenticity! It’s a little too ridiculous to be confident it’s real.

          1. saro*

            I think it’s real – people will do anything to get support for what they want.

            I had a very small blog with an even smaller following and got the weirdest questions – AND I didn’t offer to answer anyone’s questions.

    2. Ellie H.*

      It seems to be working out ok for Don and Megan relationship-wise if not work-wise. Although Don doesn’t manage her directly, Peggy does. I think Megan should move to another agency.

  13. Anonymous*

    I wouldn’t dare ask for a Mac as a new employee! That will make you sound self-indulgent and high maintenance. Unless you are a graphic designer, you sure as heck won’t be using a mac in your professional career for a very long time.

    1. fposte*

      Actually, our department uses both and has for some time, and in my experience they’re not really such rarefied beasts. But I agree that the OP shouldn’t ask for one if everybody else is on PC unless there’s a specific reason well beyond personal taste.

    2. Anonymous*

      Unless you are a graphic designer, you sure as heck won’t be using a mac in your professional career for a very long time.

      Indeed. All the real work gets done on the Linux workstations. The Macs are just for writing presentations in Keynote.

    3. Anonymous*

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Asking for a special piece of equipment to use as an alternative to what you have been given before you even start is going to label you as High Maintenance. Unless you are an executive or a rainmaker for the company, asking for this makes you sound like you think you should be treated specially.

    4. Anonymous*

      Unless you are a graphic designer, you sure as heck won’t be using a mac in your professional career for a very long time

      Indeed – Macs are for Keynote presentations and writing papers. The real work gets done on the Linux workstations.

  14. lk*

    I work at a corporation that procures hundreds (if not thousands) of new PCs every year, but upper management is allowed to request a Mac if they prefer it. It causes issues all the time with networking and applications… and we are a tech company.

    I agree with many of the above commenters that unless there is a legitimate business need (graphic design, editing, etc) or the OP is higher level mgmt, then using the PC for the time being is probably the best course of action.

    Side note, I actually had a job in a mac-only department of a PC organization… it was miserable for every one involved. Now I’d only switch to a mac if the entire organization used them.

  15. Janet*

    In the Mac vs. PC debate, get started at the job, get used to the PC, see what you can do. If you really really need a Mac, you might find that others need one as well. In my current job someone started and does a lot of design. She’s making it work on a PC but it’s hard for her. We’ve also added some video editing duties to other people’s jobs and it has become apparent that a Mac will be necessary so three of us put in a request together for a Mac laptop and one is being procured for us.

    There is a good chance that something like this will work in your organization. Or you might get there and discover that there is one Mac in the org already and you can use it occasionally. At my past three jobs everyone primarily used PCs but usually the designers had a Mac and they’d let others use it if necessary.

  16. Verde*

    #6 – The software, web-based programs, and internal sharing and networking the company is using might not work on a different O/S. And, if the company uses a specific email and calender system and it’s not compatible with your computer choice, that means you’ll not be on the same team communication/meeting schedule as everyone else. It’s incredibly frustrating for co-workers to have one person not be able to see the meeting schedule or perform certain tasks because they are using different stuff.

    You can choose whatever you want for home, but work is a group activity, and whether you would prefer something different than everyone else is completely irrelevant. Choices were made for the company and that’s what they’re going with. If you have compelling reasons why you think something should change for the company, then you need to work within the system and see if you can get it addressed. Besides, having computer skills in both systems makes you more marketable.

    1. Sandrine*

      “You can choose whatever you want for home, but work is a group activity, and whether you would prefer something different than everyone else is completely irrelevant. Choices were made for the company and that’s what they’re going with. If you have compelling reasons why you think something should change for the company, then you need to work within the system and see if you can get it addressed. Besides, having computer skills in both systems makes you more marketable.”

      Yes! A THOUSAND TIMES yes!

      I use PCs. Screw the graphics, it’s cheaper in general and easy to use, and I don’t need higher-end fancy stuff.

      That, and… at work they use computers running Linux. I’ll admit it: I hate it :P . But I got used to it, even though I don’t quite get everything yet (what we do is basic and I guess it could be done on any system, really, but still) .

      I would find it extremely presumptuous if a new employee asked for new tools right off the bat. And weird, too.

  17. Anonymous*

    As a graphics-heavy corporate person, I’ve often been the lone Mac in my department. I’ve also jumped between Mac and PC steadily, and currently use both. IMHO, unless you have a very compelling reason (ie I had to constantly access graphic materials, and my company only approved Macs for those programs) its seriously not worth the energy to buck the trend in the office. As much as I am a Mac fangirl, the differences between the two aren’t serious enough to truly impede your work. And meanwhile, Microsoft loves to make Macs look bad by disabling stupid things on the Mac versions of their software. Like if I wanted to embed a PDF in a spreadsheet in Excel, I could only do it on a PC. Or I couldn’t even touch our department’s Access database bc there wasn’t a Mac version of the software. Not only that, but PowerPoint fonts don’t line up perfectly, so its hard to format a presentation jumping bt users. All little stupid things individually that could generally be worked around but are frustrating and simply reinforce the “unsuitability” of Macs for business. I got to the point where I began asking for a PC station so I could jump bt the two dependent on task. Now I would simply choose the system that was predominant in the office, and just go home to my beautiful iMac at night if I need a Mac fix, lol. :)

  18. Mike B.*

    I don’t see the harm in asking for a computer you can already use proficiently, assuming (and this is a big assumption) that there are already Macs on site for more than just a handful of specialists who absolutely need them. The IT department at my company has racks of both kinds of machines ready for new hires and upgrade requests; the incremental cost of setting up one versus another is minimal and it really does come down to preference for most of us. If you aren’t going to need any specialized software to do your job, why not ask? (The “troublemaker” argument is nonsense; you could just as easily use that to justify not negotiating aggressively for a higher starting salary.)

  19. Student*

    On the Mac/PC issue:

    Don’t ask for a Mac on Day 1. On Day, 2 or whenever you have a free moment early on, contact the IT department (depending on the size of the business, this could be a contractor who visits once a month, just one guy, or it could be a several-person department). Send a brief email asking, “Do you support Macs?” If they support Macs, then ask your manager if you could have a Mac (make sure to think/ask about whether you’ll be able to use important software – lots of software runs on Macs, but not everything). Asking about it should be fine – demanding it would be inappropriate.

    Things to know: Macs are significantly more expensive than an equivalent PC – this should be something you think about as you make a business case for why you need one. The ultra-generic, not-always-applicable rule of thumb is that Macs cost twice as much as a PC for equivalent performance. Macs and PCs can be on the same network together – the challenge is in employing enough people to deal with both systems. In a very small shop without any significant internal network, it might be very easy for them to provide you with a Mac (or cripplingly hard, if the one IT person has never dealt with them at all). In most businesses, it will depend on whether they have the people to support both systems – many businesses right now are trying very hard to avoid extra staffing, so most businesses just pick one computing platform and stick to it if they’re trying to squeeze IT in an efficient manner (if they are trying to squeeze IT in an inefficient manner, they’ll force IT to support multiple platforms without a good business case for it). In a huge company, there are probably at least a couple of high-level employees who insist that their preference for a Mac should trump IT business practicalities, so Macs will likely be supported or at least permitted.

  20. Sandrine*

    Just to add visibility and expand on my idea, I would find it extremely weird if an employee made such a request right off the bat either before starting or on his/her first day.

    Working better on Macs or even being an Apple “fanboy/girl” should play no part in this : you work with what tools your company gives you (as said more eloquently in another comment) .

    (As said in previous comment, I had to adapt to Linux when I started my job: I’m still here 6 months later and survived this pretty well!)

    As a boss, I wouldn’t probably raise an eyebrow at such a request, but I would have the employee on my radar to check for potential issues or things like that.

  21. KayDay*

    #1. funemployment – If you aren’t able to say much about volunteering/working part time, etc. I would just be honest and say that you used your time to take care of things you would not have time to do if you were working full time, and focus on any skills you learned or “work” you did (not so much L&O).

    #6 Mac vs. PC – I agree that you should see if there are other Macs in the office and then ask. If it’s an all PC office, I definitely would NOT ask for one, unless you have a really good reason for needing it. It will only make you look demanding and inflexible. Bringing in a Mac from home might be an option, but I would still wait until you’ve been there. PCs are more common in office environments anyway, so it’s probably best to get used to them. (I have a mac at home and a PC at work).

  22. Sophie*

    #6 – Like most things it depends on the company culture. I was asked before I started if I preferred a Mac or PC, because my department is about 50/50. I went with a PC because I’m used to them, but was told I could change my mind and just talk to the technical operations guy. Unless they specifically ask I would go with a PC for right now, and then if it really bothers you, ask a couple weeks after you have started and let them know it’s hampering your productivity.

    1. Anonymous*

      Exactly re: company culture. Size also matters as big places may have a lot of local variation and can have the breadth of IT support to manage variation. At my company, you could interview with a group and could only see PC or only see Macs depending on local tastes/history/needs. But we’ve got contracts to procure either. A new employee who asked if Macs were supported wouldn’t be considered “entitled” or “high maintenance.” The response would be “sure – go look at this webpage and let us know what best suits you.” Yes, Macs are more expensive, but making a good new hire happier and more productive over the lifetime of the computer is worth an extra $2k.

  23. Charles*

    Explaining how you’ve spent time unemployed – AAM, I do get what you are saying; but, sometimes the way some hiring folks focus on this strikes me that they forget what it is like to be unemployed. Sometimes they think the unemployed lounge around all day watching soaps and eating bon-bons. In this job market, 6 months isn’t that long – yes, it sucks to have no income that long; but again, in this job market . . . not that long.

    Company makes us count . . . Well, it is a law firm. Some places like that are “set in their ways.” Since it sounds like the OP is a temp speaking up could work against her. If she speaks up and they are not willing to change a system that has been in place a long time she could be seen as a “trouble-maker.” Or she could be seen as someone with “new” ideas!? (like no one has made this suggestion before)

    When another candidate . . Okay, so the other guy was on the interview panel? Was he in fact the one hired? Does the OP really have all the information? Maybe he was eliminated or he turned it down before she even interviewed? I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. Maybe the OP’s “good friend” isn’t telling her everything. And why has no one else even mentioned that the OP’s friend is somewhat breaking confidentialty rules by telling her who the other candidates are? Talk about the kettle calling the pot black!

    Ditto, what The Right Side said about Cheney – he turned down the position a few times before accepting. AAM, nice try at Cheney bashing; but, this is one of the nice things about your blog – you generally keep away from politics – it would be nice if that tradition continued. Thanks!

    Explaining a past bonus structure . . . I just cannot see any employer saying, show us your past pay slip with a “we will pay you the same” without knowing what that amount was. Are you just starting salary negotiations or have you already agreed to a certain amount? If you have already agreed to an annual salary; then it sounds like you are trying to “counter-offer” at this point. That might not be a good way to start a new job.

    Asking for a Mac instead of a PC Yes, as others have said here, unless they offer Macs or unless you are in a graphics position, this will come across as entitled and unwilling to adapt to change – not good. Take whatever tools they offer you and learn how to use them.

    I once trained in a large office where the decision was to switch from the Mac to the PC; so many were gripping LOUDLY , as if they could make the change not happen. All they succeeded in doing was making themsleves look bad and get on the nerve of the powers that be – the office switched to be in line with the company worldwide, so the change was going happen no matter what.

    I work for an attractive boss Get over yourself, maybe he isn’t into you! (sorry, snarky resonse for a snarky question)

    1. OP #3*

      Yes, I have all the information. Yes, the guy was offered/accepted the job. No, I am not bitter; he seems like a really nice guy and was really professional. Yes, my “good friend” told me about the internal candidate. No, she didn’t “somewhat break any confidentiality rules.”

      1. Celia*

        I actually don’t see this as a problem, so long as the person is somewhat professional. I mean, if you had been accepted for the position, you would have been his boss, yes? I think it is very fair for someone to have a say in hiring their boss. And really, just because he was at the interview doesn’t mean that he had much, or even any say other than about the very basics.

    2. Celia*

      I confess, as I was laid off just prior to the start of holiday season, I knew damn well no one would be hiring me until January. I applied to jobs, talked with recruiters, etc, but I didn’t get my hopes up, and I pretty much took advantage of the free time to watch all the tv ever.

  24. Malissa*

    #1—This is why I also tell everybody I know who is unemployed volunteer at something, even if it’s just spending a couple hours on Sunday counting the church collection plate.
    #2–Before you try to change the system, try to understand it first. Given that this is a law firm they may be billing clients on every minute you spend filing their paper work. Only after you understand why, can you advocate for change.
    #3–I experienced something close to what happened here. The real moral here is that if it might look or smell fishy, the best action is to avoid the situation altogether.
    #4–Be honest about the situation and nobody loses any respect. Nobody should assume that you are applying at only one company anyway.
    #6–Be careful what you ask for, if they actually grant this request you may find yourself on a bootcamped Mac that operates a lot like a PC. So you may lose any perceived benefit of using a mac. Never mind that you may come off as a bit entitled. Feel the situation out before you ask.

  25. Esra*

    As a graphic designer who has worked on macs and PCs, unless you are into video/music editing, give the PC a try!

    It’s not going to help for this job, but if you ever move on, one of my questions in interviews is asking what kind of setup they have, macs? PCs? Adobe suite? Which version etc.

    1. Sophie*

      I second that! I have done many years of graphic design successfully on a PC. I’m not sure of any Adobe product, which is what is generally used in business, that can’t run happily on both. Unless your job requires you use some Mac-specific software that does not have a PC version then go with the PC for a while and see what happens. I find I can switch easily between the two now.

    1. Kelly O*

      I hope that was meant in a tongue in cheek manner.

      I worked for an executive suites company for a while doing administrative support for clients, and we had to quantify time and what was accomplished, although thankfully I did not have to actually count sheets of paper. Ours was for billing purposes though, so I had to give as much information as possible about what I was doing so we could bill properly.

  26. Nicky*

    As a graphic designer who has no option but to work on PCs, I like to challenge the assumption that Macs are always best for design. Maybe in the 80s and 90s – not now. The only real differentiators were performance and availability of software, and PCs caught up long ago to these issues. However, as regards Mac vs. PCs in offices – at my blue chip employer, you’d encounter more than a raised eyebrow if you requested a Mac in our PC-only office. Aside from the expense and compatibility issues (despite what some Mac-fans would tell you, not all Mac files are easily transferable – fonts, for example, are a nightmare), Macs cannot support the security software that we are required by law to have. Requesting a Mac at my firm involves signing disclaimers to acknowledge that your data and your clients’ data is not secure, and as Macs are not allowed on the same network as PCs, they’re pretty much useless. So I’m a bit surprised that the OP thinks it’s worth a shot – unless your office is one of the rare setups mentioned with both plenty of Macs and PCs in a happy commune, I would think asking for a Mac would make your IT department mark you as a pain in the rear-end.

    1. JT*

      “Macs cannot support the security software that we are required by law to have.”

      I doubt that. Instead, it just cannot be done at reasonable cost.

      1. Nicky*

        We’re a financial services firm so while we have to take lots of security precautions, we’re also ridiculously tight. So you’re probably right!

  27. Wilton Businessman*

    1. You should be spinning your answer to what you’ve been doing to upgrade your career (although I’d be interested in the puppy part). Upgrade your computer to Windows7, take a community college course on photography, volunteer. I want to know you haven’t just been sitting on your can waiting for your government check.

    2. Silly. You need to document the amount of time you’re spending on these tasks and let your management decide if it’s “worth it” or not. However, since you’re a contractor, they will decide it’s “worth it” because they have to show the employer some sort of statistics to justify why they’re taking 50% off the top.

    3. But is it legal? ;)

    4. I’m sure your friend knows you are looking at more than one place. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    5. Have your end-of-year paycheck or W2 from last year?

    6. A couple days before you start is probably too late to choose a mac vs. pc, if it’s even an available choice. While Macs are much easier to use and maintain, they are more expensive. Yes, you can bring out all sorts of studies that show Macs are cheaper “over the long run”, but the fact is that a similar machine costs twice as much as a PC. When the bean counters see double the cost, they are going to freak.

    Also Mac OSX is based on Unix and a lot of Windows shops are scared of that.

    Mac/PC interoperability isn’t really an issue anymore as long as you’re running the same software (ie Office for Windows, Office for Mac).

    7. Have you just started reading AAM?

  28. mh_76*

    #1 – If you’re still looking, it’s not too late to start volunteering. There are a lot of volunteering opportunities that happen outside of “9-5” and you don’t have to put the exact dates on your resume. Based on your post, maybe initiatives based around animals, literacy/literary, nature/green spaces, and home improvement might be of interest. If you’ve played an instrument or sang in the past, there are community groups that are open to players/singers who haven’t played/sang in a while. The beauty of focusing on volunteering outside of “9-5” is that you can continue some/all of the commitments even after starting your next job…as time allows, of course.

  29. mh_76*

    #2 – Sounds like asinine busywork that will ultimately take away from your OTJ productivity (on-the-job). I’ve worked in a place that wanted us to keep track of how many letters we produced (job was based around mail-merge…zzz…) but that was pretty easy for us because we were able to look at the number of records in the dataset and write that down instead of counting every last piece of paper. I somehwat understand the need to track productivity but your outsourcing company/placement agency needs to come up with a better metric (I’m drawing a blank re: suggestions). On the + side, you have a good resume bullet-point because you eliminated a 3-month backlong in…how long did it take you?

    1. mh_76*

      grrr another typo….should be “somewhat”…do feel free to point out any other of my typos :)

  30. mh_76*

    #2 continued – the weekly mail-merge-job report was done in an excel spreadsheet…very easy.

    #4 – Just be up-frount about your other opportunity and go on the interview. I’ve heard the advice that you should never turn down an interview even if you know that your heart is elsewhere.

    I have my own similar -possible- quandry: I just “landed” a short-term temp. job that doesn’t pay much but will put a good company name (F-100, I think) on my resume (I start Weds.). I also just got another call from a different agency about a job making twice what the first one pays -and- for a longer duration. Granted, I don’t know whether I’ll even get an interview for the 2nd opportunity and if I do, I’ll go on it. The qunadry would arise should I get the offer for opp. #2 – I would probably take it because of more money, equally good company…the downside to #2 is that it would probably be more admin. than I’d like (Proj. Coord. is a broad title) but opp. #1 is even “lower-level” work (I feel bad saying that because I know that there are people out there who love admin. work and who love data-migration-by-hand work). I’ve worked for agency #1 before but opp. #2 would be a better opp. for me. Hmmm…I will be up-front with recruiter #1 though because I do like him & the agency. Agency/recruiter #2 are new to me.

    1. mh_76*

      “frount” should be “front”…D’oh!…not sure how that typo happened…must be Fri the 13th!

  31. mh_76*

    #6 – I had to make the transition from the old mac OS to PC in the first job I had that used computers (sr. year college). I have a mac at home but most companies used PCs exclusively and some have macs for their Creative people to use (web, graphics, publishing…). Even though macs are better (I’ve had debates with some IT people about that already), there is a lot of similarity in the user-interfaces and a basic user will be able to adapt if you can get past the fear-of-PCs factor. Look for the similarities and go for it. You’ll be fine. And if you have questions, start with the help menu before asking your IT people.

    1. Jamie*

      “And if you have questions, start with the help menu before asking your IT people.”

      mh_76 – overworked IT departments everywhere thank you for making this point.

      And yes, fwiw, unless you have a darn good business reason for needing a mac (which I’ve yet to see) then you will look like a super-special-snowflake for asking if they aren’t already supporting both. I can’t think of a better way to get on my bad side right off the bat.

      Also, there has been a tone in some of the comments that Mac/Windows compatibility issues are a thing of the past…maybe for commercial software, but a lot of places are still running in house apps and have the ERP and CRM configured for windows. It’s not as simple as Office on PC or Office for Mac.

  32. Jeff*

    Adding my two cents to #6:

    As a tech who has worked on Mac/PC integrated environments, it is a pain to try to get the two to talk to each other over a network. If you happen to work in a department that is Mac only or if there are a sufficient number who use them, it’s ok to ask. But if this is the exception to the rule, this will probably upset the IT guys/department, particularly if it’s the only Mac on the network.

    And has already been mentioned, Macs are incredibly expensive even for the lowest tier Macs. Again, unless your IT department already has Macs in storage or have them budgeted, this will come off as entitled.

    Take the first couple weeks, explore the office your working in, see if others are using Macs and how many employees use them, their level, etc. Ask other employees too about their computer use, if this has been requested before. If you get the sense that such a request would not be looked down upon, then you can feel comfortable asking for a Mac. Otherwise, you’ll most likely need to learn PCs.

    I will say this. Many offices still use XP, which is a very stable, user-friendly version of Windows. But if you have a company that has upgraded to Windows 7, there are plenty of similarities between OS X and W7 that will make the transition easier. If your office uses Vista…. well, in that situation, maybe you should ask for a Mac. ;-)

    1. Nyxalinth*

      I worked briefly (briefly, because I swear I can’t sell fur coats to Inuits) for a company that does fundraising for progressive causes as a telephone donation specialist. the computers we used were DOS based slave terminals so ancient, it was a wonder that they hadn’t fossilized! I’m talking the sort with black screens and green or amber text.

    2. Anonymous*

      As a tech who has worked on Mac/PC integrated environments, it is a pain to try to get the two to talk to each other over a network

      Absolutely. I’ve had Macs talking to Solaris, Irix, and countless Linux flavours without any hassle – whether that was over NFS mounts or squirting files halfway across the planet over scp. But getting my OSX laptop to talk to my wife’s XP one? Exercise in pain.

  33. mh_76*

    #7 – Don’t go after your boss. If you were already together and were starting the business together…well…my dad is an MD in private practice and my mom does everything that isn’t medical, A/P, or basic-secretarial (dad, dad, and secretary respectively)…and they’ve been in business for 33? years and married for many more. Were he a colleague, I’d say to look at past AAM posts/comments and use your best judgment… I’m -not- promoting partisan politics but merely mentioning that the pair in the White House met…yes, at work. She was an Associate (2nd or 3rd year) and he was a newbie (intern?).

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      “my mom does everything that isn’t medical, A/P, or basic-secretarial (dad, dad, and secretary respectively)”

      I read that with a dirty mind and laughed.

  34. ncd*

    #2 – I used to work at a company that required me to weigh all of the documents I handled in a day (there was some counting involved, too, but not nearly as much as with your position). If they really want a “concrete” way of tracking productivity, perhaps you could suggest weight? Then you could simply pop the items on a scale before you file them, and it would take up much less of your time.

    1. Karthik*

      Weight! That seems like the best way. You can measure the thickness of paper with some calipers. Then measure the weight of a single sheet.

      W_t = total weight of your stack
      W_s = single sheet weight
      H_s = single sheet height

      (W_t/W_s)*H_s gives you the total height of the stack
      W_t/W_s gives you the number of sheets in your stack

      Should save you quite a bit of time

  35. Nyxalinth*

    In regards to #1, I tell them that I write. Because I do! I haven’t yet been published, but it lets them know that I’m not just twiddling my thumbs while looking. When I’m asked, I tell them “It’s mostly fiction, with the occasional piece for “X, Y or Z” online as well.” If nothing else, it lets them know I can communicate well and that I have good spelling, grammar, and attention to detail skills.

  36. Dan*

    #3 – candidate is interviewer

    That stinks to high heaven. I don’t care how much integrity this person is supposed to have. He’s going to voluntarily pass up a promotion so that an outsider can take it instead? I don’t think so.

    And even if I’m dead wrong, there is the appearance of a conflict of interest here and HR would surely have a problem with it.

    1. OP #3*

      I thought that was weird, too. I didn’t expect the guy to say, “You know what? She is WAY more qualified than I am. Give her the job instead of me!”

    2. Kimberlee*

      I sort of assumed that the guy could only assist in evaluating other candidates, and did not have the option to simply give himself the job or not.

  37. chacha*

    Malissa-File Clerks don’t bill for time, Paralegals do.

    Dan-wouldn’t that be nice!!! Unfortunately they only staff mailroom, reception and file clerks

    Wilton-There doesn’t seem to be any question of “worth it” I’m the only file clerk in an 11 attorney office. I can barely keep up, but there’s no way there’s enough work for two. I don’t understand your “taking 50%” comment. If you know the money side of outsourcing please share with me, I’m curious.

    MH-it took about 3 weeks. I was actually hired for a 2 month gig to “help out” the file clerk they hired. He was SUCH a crackhead they let him go and kept me.

    Ned-that is an EXCELLENT idea!!! I was actually going to suggest all the clerks keeping their hole punchings as proof of productivity….kidding

    The whole thing just makes me think it’s the companies ridiculous way to keep unruly immature employees in check. I work REALLY h ard, it’s REALLY obvious to everyone. I mean in all seriousness do the Managing Partners actually look at these sheets and comprehend 42 inches (I can’t even type that without shaking my head it’s SO ABSURD) of filing….it’s too too absurd. Actually I was told the Managing Partner was SO pissed at the outsourcing company for insisting his file clerk waste his time filling out stat sheets….I’m not quite sure why a head honcho couldn’t just say “We’re not doing that”

    1. Malissa*

      Have you specifically asked why they have you keep track of everything? Something in the form of, “It’s seems like I spend a lot of time tracking my work when I could be performing the actual work instead. Is there a reason you are having me track this?”
      I only ask this because as a cost accountant sometimes there are good reasons for what seems like asinine duties. I will say that 9 times out of 10 there really is not a good reason, but how do you know that if you don’t ask?

      1. chacha*

        He said something like it’s for MY benefit which is BS. Like they’re going to give me a big fat raise for filing 3 million inches of filing. If I’m still doing this lame job at raise time I’ll kill myself!

        1. Malissa*

          What I just got out of your answer is that you hate the job.
          Time to brush of the resume and look for greener pastures. Good luck on your search!

          1. chacha*

            you are CORRCT, I hate it! Only took it because I had been out of full time work awhile. Am interviewing as much as possible. Thanks for the good wishes!

    2. Kelly O*

      See, here is the thing I keep coming back to on #2, and forgive me if this is overly simplistic.

      This is how things are done in this office. As a contractor, you don’t get to set the rules for how work is performed, measured, or otherwise quantified. You are there to perform those tasks, and for all you know they have a very valid reason for doing this.

      Now, do I realistically think counting pages is necessary? No, of course not. But I’ve also seen some really odd ways of justifying the need for X number of people in an office, or why we really need contract help in this area, and maybe pages handled has become that benchmark.

      Again, do I think it’s a good idea? No, I think it takes too long, and I’d probably agree that doing it would drive me out of my gourd. But there’s a saying about him who has the gold makes the rules…

      1. chacha*

        I think my problem is that I’m a Libra and if something doesn’t balance out or make any kind of good sense to me I just feel OFF about it and it drives me crazy. It seems like…….a mother asking a kid to write an essay on whether they made their bed or not. I mean clearly the bed is made or it’s not. Like I said before, theres no need to justify this position. The person I feel the most sorry for is the receptionist. He has to do it too (although thusfar he hasn’t done it) If I was an attorney looking at a stat sheet that says I filed 100 inches of filing in a week it wouldn’t mean a thing to me. My guess is it doesn’t mean anything to anyone.

    3. mh_76*

      Glad to hear that they kept you. Definitely use that on your resume -if- you’re interested in future similar positions. It shows that you work hard and have figured out an efficient way to do X amount of work in less time than expected…a good thing indeed.

      1. Kelly O*

        Oh lord… I have become a 13 year old boy, because I literally snickered at that one.

        Need some help getting all those files in?

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          Speak for yourself. That’s when hard drives were much bigger than they were today! (physical size-wise anyway)

  38. ChristineH*

    #2 – Wow, and I thought the monthly reporting requirements in my last job was nuts!! I worked in Information & Referral, and I had to count BY HAND every aspect of every I&R call taken that month, even though the calls were also logged into a computer database. Yes, even the calls taken by the other two I&R workers in my office!

  39. OP #4*

    Thanks for answering my question, AAM! I am just the type of person who always feel obligated… that if someone was to help me I should not let them down. But good to know that others don’t see this as being ungrateful.

    #1- I agree with AAM on this one. I was also recently asked this question.. I just told them that I am pretty selective with what jobs I apply to. I do not apply or take every job I see. Also, that I’ve been brushing up on my whatever skills here.. For example, reading excel books so I can be more fluent with the formulas and such. It must have been an okay answer cause I got a call back from them.
    Anyway, whatever you say don’t mention that you’ve been on numerous interviews. It will just make them wonder what is wrong with you- why havent you gotten a job yet if you’ve been trying.. Good Luck!

    #6. Like others have stated, see how the office is like first.. who knows at the end of 2 weeks you might not even care that you don’t have a MAC.

    1. Anonymous*

      who knows at the end of 2 weeks you might not even care that you don’t have a MAC

      I suspect that most people would be upset at the lack of a working network connection, regardless of their stance on Apple vs Microsoft.

  40. bradamante*

    #6 — Somehow I have the feeling that the OP hasn’t worked in a lot of office jobs.

    Learning to navigate around an unfamiliar operating system may be the most interesting part of your new job . . . sad, but true.

  41. Anonymous*

    #6 Unless you’re a high-level executive or the company already uses Macs or is a BYOD convert, no one will ask you for your preference. You’ll get what everyone else gets and learn to like it.

  42. Cassie*

    #3: even though having the other candidate in the interview was kind of weird, do you think anyone involved in hiring would have put much stock in how he felt about the other candidates? I mean, do you think the rest of them think he can be objective?

    Maybe he knows the most about the position and that’s why they included him in the interview panel. I once interviewed for a manager position and one of the would-be direct reports was on the panel. Now, she hadn’t applied for the job, but she could have and would likely have gotten the position (not sure why she opted not to).

    #6: Macs and PCs aren’t that different. I’ve used PCs for my whole “career”, although I briefly owned a Mac Powerbook at home (I thought it was cool and my boss let me buy whatever laptop I wanted). The most annoying thing was getting used to the different keyboard shortcuts but other than that, it wasn’t that different. My current boss has a PC desktop but bought a Macbook Air for when he travels. Although, he did recently ask me to install Windows on it and prefers to use Windows on there… (but he doesn’t use keyboard shortcuts so I’m not quite sure why he prefers one over the other – I imagine computers run better on whatever OS they were intended to work on, but hey, that’s what he wants).

    Of all the admin staff, only 1 person uses a Mac and that’s because her boss (a technical guy) uses Macs exclusively, so she had to get a Mac. It kind of bothers her because she can’t access some of our web-based systems and has to borrow someone’s PC to process some stuff.

    1. Vicki*

      Cassie – They are different if you’re a power user. They are Very different. It’s not just the keyboard shortcuts; it’s the keys themselves (CTL means something very different in Mac/Linux land). It’s the apps, the menus, the way things are done.

      I have known PC users who found Macs to be very difficult to use. I’m the opposite. Then there are people like you who don;t really care one way or the other.

      I don’t understand companies that make it more difficult for their employees to be productive.

      1. JT*

        I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t look at this as an opportunity to become a “power user” on another system – that is, gain skill that could help in the future.

  43. Just Me*

    # 2
    My company does the same thing. We count everything we do. Some have and still do have to time the work as well. I used to spend more time looking at the clock and logging the time of when I started and finished a claim then caring about the claim. ( Of course I cared to do it right but you know what mean)

    I would have less of a problem with it IF the result of time wasted doing this resulted in some sort of report and it was used to improve efficiencies, train us better etc, use for our reviews and so on. It is not. For our place it is a control issue. They do nothing with them. I have not heard a peep of whether I am doing good or bad… a year and a half.

    My company is all about monitoring us and less about the work itself. The joke around the office is.. get the production reports done, never miss a time clock punch, never be late and who cares about the work.

    1. chacha*


      That’s EXACTLY how it is here. The shit I have been through re: watching the clock to make sure I punch in exactly to the minute. My whole thing when I first got here was HEY, I’m a file clerk, I’m up/down/around, I’d be concerned if someone in this position was clocking in/out to the minute.
      One of my bosses duties is to collect all the “stat sheets” and create an excel spread sheet. I saw him spend basically an entire day on it. Ridiculous. Like I said before, IF this dumbass stats go to anyone at the law firm, which I doubt, they wouldn’t mean a thing, I guarantee.
      I hear you about the control thing. I was told I HAD to take my lunch before my 5th hour of work. I kept not doing it because ….I WAS WORKING not looking at the clock, and was then told it was a LAW. This sounded like BS, so I consulted with an employment law friend of mine and he said “yea, NO” When I told them they said “okay so it’s not a law, it’s our policy”
      My feeling is, by the way they treat people across the board, that the staff they are used to dealing with are a bunch of juvenille deliquents that they try to keep in line by lying and making up “LAWS” and “stat sheet requirements”

      UGH. F-ing economy, I’m SO over-qualified for this. I haven’t “clocked in” to a job since high school

      1. Anonymous_J*

        Is it possible, as this is a law firm, that they are using those stats to “puff up” their billable hours or hourly rate?

        …Not that that’s your problem, but certainly something about which I’m wondering.

        1. chacha*

          It’s not the law firm that requires the stat sheets, it’s the outsourcing company that placed me at the law firm. They claim that they’re given to someone at the firm, which I find hard to believe, because I picture an attorney looking at these stat sheets and saying WTF!!! I mean 60 inches of filing was done in a week, how would that make sense in any way to anyone (except the file clerks!!!)

          1. Xtra*

            It sounds like this is not the job for you. I’m sure the managing partners don’t look directly at the “stats sheets”, but are given an overall report on the productivity of the office. The data that’s collected on the “stats sheets” are probably used to develop this report. While you may be efficient in your duties, your attitude is terrible. Have you asked for additional duties from your manager? Have you suggested on a better way on reporting the productivity?

            I assume that you are an hourly employee. While clocking in can be a tedious exercise it’s helpful from a compliance standpoint. More importantly, if it’s a computer/telephone based system it’s easier and cheaper for the company to calculate and process payroll, than with a manual timecard.
            In terms of your lunch breaks, it seems like your manager didn’t know what he was talking about. However, since he did state for you to take your lunch on the 5th hour of work you should do so, not whenever you feel like it.

            It seems like you want to make this job all about you. It’s not. You aren’t horribly oppressed. If you were my direct report I would seriously consider letting you go if you spread this kind of negative attitude to the other employees.

  44. Vicki*

    I’m a Mac user (as in, I am Far more productive on a Mac, my fingers “work” on a Mac, and, to be honest, I dislike Windows a lot.) So, when I’m looking for a job, I look around at interview time to see if it’s a Windows-only shop or a diverse OS environment.
    Even when there are Macs everywhere to be seen, the day before you start is awfully late in the game to say you want a Mac. As some people have pointed out, PCs are cheaper (they also break down more often and require more IT staff, but hey, they _are_ cheaper to _purchase_.) So, in many places, the default will be PC unless you ask early and/or are at a relatively high level.

    At my last job it turned out that employees could choose; contractor temps were handed a PC by default. When I converted to fulltime employee status at that last job, switching to a Mac was part of the negotiation. No Mac; no acceptance of offer.

    Good luck to you. I hope you will be OK working on the PC.

  45. Anonymous*

    I was just having this conversation the other day with an IT manager who was telling me about a new hire that has kept insisting on all of the reasons that they personally needs a Mac. His response is that he buys computers based on the position not the individual. It’s all well that the new hire wants a Mac, but the reality is that should that person not work out, they are stuck with a computer with more costs associated with it. And who is to say the next person in the position would want a Mac, they may only be comfortable working on a pc. Asking isn’t unreasonable, but asking with such short notice or carrying on about it will only cause frustration and friction.

  46. IT girl*

    “Although it also dramatically narrowed the pool of qualified I.T. job candidates.”

    We’re all qualified, we just don’t want to develop on Macs :)

  47. Elizabeth West*

    Re #7–
    Recognize it for what it is, an attractive motivator. We got a really, really hot guy working for us at Exjob out in the shop. He had a pregnant girlfriend so no way was anything going to happen, but he motivated me to get off my fat butt and get some exercise. Use it, work it, be grateful for it.

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